Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

9 December, 2008

Weekend Design Challenge: Initial concepts
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:11 AM

Last week, we discussed the commercial viability of different board game projects. This week, like an inscrutable boss, I’m going to pick one project and tell you to work on it.

The project will be building a hospital as originally suggested by Rik.

Read on for some of my thoughts.

From last week’s description: The game employs a “Tragedy of the Commons” theme to the gameplay where players are trying to accomplish their individual goals without destruction of the shared resource (in this case, the hospital).

So, let’s start discussing some initial concepts for the game. Here are some questions to get started:

What specific types of mechanics do we want to focus on? We’ve mentioned each person having a specific role. What roles will there be? What goals will we have for each role? How can we keep the game interesting as the players play the game repeatedly? What is the “fun” element to the game? How do the mechanics support the theme we’ve chosen?

What type of presentation do we want to go for? What elements will there be to the game? Will there be a game board, and if so, what will it represent? How do players keep track of score? What will the style for the art be: silly, serious, realistic, cartoonish, etc.?

Consider other questions, and present some initial ideas for us to refine next week.


  1. When I think about the hospital theme, two things come to my mind. The first is a board game, Pandemia. The second is a TV Serie, Scrubs.

    In Pandemia, each player has a role, giving them a special power. The goal is to find vaccines for 4 illnesses, and, as a secondary goal, their eradication. The game ends when to many towns are infected. Either all players win, or they all lose, so they must combine their capacities.

    In Ryk’s project, similarly, the resource is shared, and everyone loses if there isn’t anything anymore.

    In Scrubs, we have an opposition between Perry Cox, senior attending physician, whose goal is to save people, and Bob Kelso, the Chief of Medecine, whose only concern is the financial viability of the hospital, ie, if someone can’t pay, he’s out of the hospital.

    So, each character might have a personal goal, earning him “victory points” throughout the game:
    - attending physician might want to save people despite the costs
    - Chief of medecine wants to earn as much money as possible
    - The Intern might want to see as many different illnesses as possible, possibly neglecting a patient in favor of a new one
    - The head of the Research Department might be wanting to try as many things as possible on patients, whatever the outcome, or the moral issue
    - The Lawyer wants to avoir deaths and other possible suing cases (while the chirurgian only wants sewing cases ;) )
    - The janitor wants to keep everything clean and in working order

    and a special power, depending on its role. (eg “heartless”, chief of medecine makes hospital earns +50% on checkout)

    I think the replayability could come from having more characters than people playing available, drawn randomly. The “fun” element comes from the fact that people must work together in order to achieve their goal, while also trying to undermine other’s efforts to gain VPs.

    Resources might be money and patients. Treatments must be discovered and cost money, patients pay regularly, but may die if not treated on time… Perhaps also hospital’s fame?

    The game board would be the hospital itself, which would be divided into rooms where patients would have to be fitted, research and tretment rooms, so on and so on.

    Each player’s turn would incur a card drawing, which could be a new patient (or new patients), or random events. Players could then do an action (research a treatment, treat, check out a patient…) earning him VP depending on his role and having a consequence on the hospital. There could be a definite number of turn (eg an entire year 52 weeks) and the winner the one with the most VP IF the hospital is still running on year’s end.

    Art can be any style. I like false illnesses that make you smile, personnaly.

    Well, that’s it for my ideas on this concept! Hope this helps ! Aw crap, sorry for the wall of text <___<”

    Comment by Modran — 9 December, 2008 @ 7:37 AM

  2. Just throwing this idea out, based on Modran’s notion of opposing characters. Suppose there is a revolving inpatient system, where on each turn, the oldest patient leaves the hospital, and the newest patient comes in. On each turn, each player may do two actions to the patients, these actions being selected from a list of say five prescribed ‘powers’ that the characters are known to have. (ie the Chief can bill a patient, evict a patient, commit insurance fraud, etc. etc, the Doctor can prescribe drugs, the janitor can ‘switch records’ and so forth).

    Each character has a win condition and a lose condition. The Doctor wins if he cures seven patients, the Chief wins if he makes $100,000, the janitor wins if the Doctor cures no more than five patients and the Chief makes no more than $75,000 (I have no idea why that’s rational, but I bet it would be fun), etc. The Doctor loses if he kills two patients, so on and so on.

    The players spend the game using their powers in creative ways to try to promote themselves and sabotage the others. The key to the fun of it is how the powers interoperate, and the extent to which they’re somewhat, but not totally predictable.

    Comment by Bret — 9 December, 2008 @ 7:35 PM

  3. I’d be a little nervous about the idea of dollars in a board game like this. It makes localization a pain, makes the game illogical real fast, and makes things a little overcomplicated. I’ve seen a lot of people frustrated by the sheer number of pieces of paper involved in Monopoly.

    What roles will there be? What goals will we have for each role? How can we keep the game interesting as the players play the game repeatedly? What is the “fun” element to the game? How do the mechanics support the theme we’ve chosen?

    To keep the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons, it’s probably best to share both the same lose condition(s) and have the same unshared win condition(s). That’s means it’s probably best to keep them all as Doctors, with a win condition of most patients saved personally and a general lose condition of most patients lost. To keep role differentiation, players could end up as one of a number of specialists (radiology, internal medicine, emergency medicine, oncology), each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Emergency medicine, for example, would get an extra ‘turn’ on 6s and have a lost patient erased from their personal record, but patients would be “death or glory” (a little unrealistic, but let’s assume post-triage), so any No Change results are treated as patient losses. Radiology would get a free ‘buy’ to try a patient who had a failed roll again, but until your next turn anyone else could choose to ‘switch’ a roll value with yours. General Practitioners would get an extra patient card on every 6, and surrender one on every 1 roll.

    Mechanically and from the ‘fun’ aspect, we’d want players to figure out the best way to screw each other over without ruining the whole pond. A player’s goal is to get X patients saved first without being involved in Y patient losses, but also without allowing Z patient losses from the entire hospital. If Z is hit, the player with the highest X value wins. To throw out some numbers, I’d go with X being 15, Y being 5, and Z being 20. Players get patients to treat at the start of every turn and by landing on specially marked squares in the form of patient cards that list the difficulty (and speciality-related difficulty), and landing on a normal square gives a number that must be used against a single patient card if the player has any patient cards. Before rolling each turn, the player call a single ‘assist’ from any other player, and use either that doctor’s position and specialty bonus or their own once the player lands on a square — but doing so provides the other person a Patient Saved point, too.

    Not sure if that fits your goal for roles, but it’s just a quick concept.

    What elements will there be to the game? Will there be a game board, and if so, what will it represent? How do players keep track of score? What will the style for the art be: silly, serious, realistic, cartoonish, etc.?

    Thematically, anything involving a hospital could get dark, real fast, so realistic and serious are right out. Silly and cartoonish can work if you have a good artist for it; a slightly less messy version of the Fallout iconography would be great.

    Gameboard should represent hospital rounds, and a stack of about one-hundred and ninety cards should take care of the patients with enough variation to cover a typical game. I’d personally prefer score kept on paper, but I know real players prefer something they can touch and don’t have to erase, so white beads for patients saved, black beads for patients lost per player, and red beads for the hospital’s total count of patients lost.

    Comment by gattsuru — 11 December, 2008 @ 4:59 PM

  4. Weekend Design Challenge: Game rules

    [...] our work from last week, it’s time to start planning out some of the game rules for our proposed board game. This week, [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 16 December, 2008 @ 5:33 AM

  5. Weekend Design Challenge: Taking a bit of a break

    [...] one on a monthly basis. One thing I’ll try to do is to follow up with my personal take on the hospital-based card game we worked on for the Weekend Project. People seemed interested in learning more about how to go [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 26 January, 2009 @ 5:39 PM

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